Some you win, some you lose!

Watch me make them here or download the recipe

White bowl of colourful shredded leaves, sliced onions and peppers with golden mango pieces.

Smashing lettuce: a great trick to remove the Iceberg lettuce core.  Hold it firmly with the stem side down.  Smash the stem firmly on to the worktop and you should just be able to remove all the core intact.  It feels and sounds pretty brutal first time but really works.

My regular co-cook, John the taxi-driver, was madly enthusiastic about the healthy mango dressing for a summer chicken salad and the low-carbohydrate bread for club sandwiches. John and Penny close up to the frying pan to catch the smell of mango, chilli and lime.

He was absolutely right about the first: fresh and zingy chicken that is perfect for hot summer days.  So simple that there’s nothing to go wrong and so delicious that you’ll want more!

But he was hugely disappointed with the gluten-free almond and coconut flour bread –chewing reduced it to a paste that went straight in to the bin.  If I try it again, I might add some xanthium gum and yeast, herbs, nuts, seeds or anything to improve the taste and texture.  Not one of our best experiments but worth a try if you are desperate!

Club sandwich cut in half to reveal layers of lettuce, chicken tomato and bacon

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

penny@bakingblind.com

The chaos of travel.

Me in my gardenHow can you make a journey of discovery nowadays?  I cast my hopes to the winds of social media and found new people around the world.

My goal with the Holman competition was to cook with new people wherever I could find them – through e-mails, social media, interviews and every other way I could think of.  My thanks go to the outstanding group of new and willing supporters spread far and wide: from Noam in Costa Rica who runs his own speciality Jungle Culinary Adventures. To Stephen in Malawi who supports local women through re-recycling projects (Our World International),  from Jo in Virginia Beach with whom I haven’t had any contacts since our paths crossed in the Women’s Royal Naval Service nearly 40 years ago to Colin in Melbourne who used to cook in the Royal Navy too; others welcoming this complete stranger such as the Rotary Club in China plus Tom and Fran in Dover (New Hampshire, USA);  Rosemary in Kiama (Australia) is the sole previous regular contact – she took me cooking in Umbria last year.

If I’m lucky enough to win, all this generosity would enable me to travel through six continents  meeting even more new people,  cooking in amazingly different places and having the adventure of a lifetime.  I couldn’t have got even this far without all the help and enthusiasm from so many distant places and many others closer to home.  Just putting together the plans has been an exhilarating whirlwind so, fingers crossed, for the future.  The prize winners are due to be announced on 1 July.

 

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

www.bakingblind.com

My youngest co-cook so far

Penny and Luke in the herb gardenRosemary, sun-dried tomato and olive savoury sconesWatch me make them on YouTube and download the recipes here

 

Young Luke turned his hand to sweet scones so I could focus on a savoury version.  He’s got his own YouTube channel too – game playing with his unique vocalisation for each character.

Luke cutting out his sweet scones

This is a basic scone mix that you can vary to suit the occasion and your taste buds.

For a traditional Cornish cream tea, split the scones horizontally and then spread with jam followed by whipped cream.  A Devon cream tea uses clotted cream before the jam.

Small savoury scones topped with a flavoured butter, pate, salami, ham or whatever else inspires you can make delicious canapes.  I’ve often used just a couple of tablespoons of horseradish sauce (instead of the olives, tomato and herbs) and topped the scones with smoked salmon or smoked mackerel pate with a thin quarter slice of lemon.

 

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

penny@bakingblind.comLuke adding his ingredients

Clutch of different eggs for Easter.

Rodney (my builder) brought me four dozen eggs laid by the quails reared by his brother, Terry.  I’ve tried two recipes to get the best out of such a special gift:

 

Not-so-mini Scotch eggs – watch me make them on YouTube

Each quail egg in the middle of a crisp and spicy coat of sausage meat and black pudding.

Outstanding while warm from the oven and still delicious halved as canapés.

Don’t expect these oven-cooked Scotch eggs to look as dark brown as the deep-fried versions – although they are paler, less calories!

Oriental canapés – watch me make them on YouTube

These quail eggs marinaded in soy sauce with sesame seed dip are tasty nibbles to go with drinks.

As soon as the sesame seeds start making cracking noises in the pan, keep them moving and remove from the heat once they have started to give up their distinctive sesame smell.

The eggs make cracking noises as they cook which can seem quite alarming!

Soft-boiled quail eggs only need about a minute simmering if first covered by boiling water, about two minutes for hard-boiled.

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

All the recipes are available at www.bakingblind.com

You Tube

penny@bakingblind.com

Lamb and vegetable tajines.

Watch me make them on YouTube or download the recipes here

 

The quick vegetable version is just as full of flavour and satisfying as the slow-cooked lamb tajine.  Serve with couscous sharpened with lemon zest, slithers of cucumber for texture and chopped coriander for freshness.Penny softening peppers, aubergine and courgettes

Portions of GGG (garlic, ginger and green chilli) in the freezer make these easy and spicy dishes for a Middle Eastern feast.

If you don’t have authentic tajine dishes (or want to keep them just for serving), cook the lamb tajine in an ordinary casserole with a close fitting lid and a circle of parchment paper (cartouche) on top to retain the moisture.

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

penny@bakingblind.com

 

Calling cooks and chefs around the world: your help please.

I have this wonderful opportunity: to cook around the world and show that just being blind doesn’t hold me (or others) back.Penny chopping while filming for bakingblind.com

As one of the 50 worldwide blind semi-finalists for the Holman prize, I now have about four weeks to flesh out my original pitch with a detailed plan and budget if I’m to reach the Final.   The prize commemorates James Holman who, like me, was blinded when serving in the Royal Navy.

probationery third officer melville brown WRNSI’m looking for people in different countries (whether chef or home-cook, sighted or not) willing to spend about half a day cooking with me – in cafes, restaurants, homes or anywhere else within reason!   These are the people who will make this whole adventure come alive: helping me bust myths about what blind people can do.    Together, we can capture some favourite and local recipes and share them across the globe through the Baking Blind YouTube channel, podcast, blogs and social media: there’s an example of me cooking with John and our sillier Comic relief fundraising episode.

My only concern is that the budget will probably be too tight for much travel away from main airports.  But I’m already trying to raise more funds and help-in-kind so that I can go further, meet more cooks and reach more people.

If you or someone you know could help, take part or would like to know more, just drop me an e-mail to penny@laylands.co.uk

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

penny@bakingblind.com

Can’t see but can cook and dream!

I’m Penny Melville-Brown and have been trying to push the disability boulder up the mountain of public attitudes for years.  So I’m delighted that Disability Talk has invited me to provide this guest blog.

Penny chopping while filming for bakingblind.comIt all started over 20 years ago when I was still serving in the Royal Navy and my eye sight started to go.  They were very good: after being off-sick for a year and with just sight in one eye, I went back to work, got a promotion and carried on even while the other eye was failing. The Navy helped me with flexible hours, getting to work and magnification on my computer even though, like other parts of the military, they weren’t covered by the equality legislation.    When I was finally medically discharged, those years with all sorts of health difficulties gave me the confidence that being blind didn’t stop me working.

But trying to persuade future employers seemed a slim chance until I was lucky enough to link up with others equally passionate about making work a real prospect for disabled people.  So I launched Disability Dynamics: working on employment programmes, equality schemes and trying to change some of our public services.  Over the last few years, I’ve been heavily involved in self-employment as it can be ideal when employers are still reluctant and we may need to keep control of where, when and how we work.  There are some wonderful stories of how people have changed their lives – feeling better and happier.  We were just on the brink of more inclusive support for business start-ups when the recession hit and the Government changed.

Over the years, I’ve heard from lots of people who are hugely frustrated, depressed and isolated because their efforts to get a job just result in repeated rejections.  I’m convinced that there are millions of disabled people who would work if they could but haven’t had the help they need or the opportunities they deserve.  Just pushing them through programmes designed for other long-term unemployed people can seem more about a target-driven process than getting the best from this national resource.  There are still lots of questions  as to whether the forthcoming Work and Health programme will deliver the radically different approach we need – and demolish the ultimate barrier: employers’ attitudes.

With lots of help from those with specialist knowledge about disability and employment, we put together our Steps to Success and Sustainable work models that show that just one organisation will rarely have all the skills and capacity to provide every variation of support.    Our Help to Work partnership showed that multiple organisations embedded in the local community working together can succeed where parachuted national providers may not.

Along the way, there have been many more topics to debate from the disability perspective:

You can see my blogs with lots of images of my flower arrangements and some recipes.  The last gives a clue to my latest venture: Baking Blind.  The cooking videos and recipes are just another way of trying to show that having a disability isn’t the end of the world and that blindness or any other impairment doesn’t stop us doing most things.  I’ve rather optimistically entered an international competition to take the idea around the world.  And I’ll be blogging more recipes over coming months – and about how I’m bashing bowls out of pewter!  One of my taxi drivers has been teaching me some of his dishes and we have a whole range of great bakes for Comic Relief coming next.

 

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

penny@bakingblind.com